INCLUDES A FEW SPOILERS!!!
A few months ago I saw one of the Underworld films in 3D and wasn't impressed, so given the option of 3D or 2D for the Hobbit I chose to watch it in 2D. At the time it seemed a good choice because my screen was virtually empty as everyone else had crammed into the 3D viewing. Having read a few of the posts here, I am really pleased I chose 2D (thank you Underworld).
Ten years ago I was amazed by FotR. I had waited all of my life to see it filmed. I was shocked that so many people hated it. I came here today half expecting the same - a lot of negative people who had pre-determined they were not going to like the film because they are Tolkien purists who hate any changes at all to their story. So far the reception has not been as bad as it was when FotR came out. Maybe after having seen the three LotR films people's expectations are different, so changes to this one have not sparked quite so much passion (or maybe those who really didn't like what was done to LotR have not bothered going to see the Hobbit???)
I love movies, so I was bound to like it, even though a few things did niggle a bit... The dwarves are a mixed bunch. PJ has done a good job of making each of them unique, but while some of them look like 'real' people, in real armour etc, others look so heavily made up with prosthetics and CGI, they appear cartoon-like. Several of them would have done better swapping places with a few dwarves out of Snow White and the Hunter. Balin was particularly disappointing. I always saw him as a strong warrior-like dwarf who took back Moria. In the Hobbit he looks like an aged rubber smurf. That said, I liked the other characters, although Radagast was maybe a little too wacky.
I wondered how they were going to stretch it out to three films. I thought Dol Guldur was going to feature heavily in this one. I guess that will now be the second film. I did like the inclusion of the Dwarf Goblin wars though. The Hobbit is a story about Dwarves as much as Hobbits, so it was good to catch their history. I think PJ would have done himself a big favour, however, if he had called the White Orc Bolg instead of Azog. Everyone who has read the LotR appendices knows that it was Dain, not Thorin, who killed Azog and how it was Bolg who lead the Orcs in the Battle of Five Armies. By necessity films tend to cut down on the number of characters and plots compared to books, but calling him Bolg would have saved a lot of problems. Maybe Bolg was at the battle where Azog was slain? Maybe even Thorin fought him there? We do not know for certain, so PJ could have elaborated with uncertainties rather than changing known facts. Unless, like Galin has posted, he is trying to link Azog's resurrection to the power of the Necromancer???
What else? I'm not a fan of musicals so I wasn't looking forward to the songs. I was surprised though. They fitted in great... A humorous one while they were washing up reiterated the Hobbit was written for children and was lighter than LotR... A solemn one in deep tones really echoed like deep caverns and made you realize these dwarves were different to humans... The goblin king's, too, was good and very animated.
Stone giants. They were mentioned in the book, but only in the distance if I remember correctly? These were a bit too close. Fun to watch, but there was just a bit too much flying debris and near misses for 13 out of 13 characters to survive. Under those conditions 1 out of 13 would have been more realistic. I would have rather seen them at a distance, as intended, with maybe the odd rock coming closer.
The trolls - Fantastic! I loved them. Some fantastic troll humour in there, right down to Bilbo getting snotted on. What's this? It came out of my nose! Classic.
Gollum - After his performance in LotR, we would all have been disappointed if Gollum had been any different. Riddles in the dark was just as it should have been. I must admit, these films have given me a much stronger sympathy for Gollum's fate than the books ever did. I despised Gollum in the books, even though i knew his history. The films do very nicely bring out his tragic corruption.
Anyway, 'd better not give too much away...